Geoffrey Fox

Reflections & Inquiries

Consciousness and conspiracy


I just discovered this note written 1-28-1971 as preparation for a lecture in a sociology course I was then teaching at the University of Illinois in Chicago. It still seems relevant  — especially for the “bubbles” we all live in.

People who share common objective conditions come to develop similar interpretations of the world, and tend to be predisposed toward similar types of actions. Thus it often appears to others, outside this situation, that concerted action of this group is due to conspiracy when in fact they are all reacting more-or-less spontaneously to the same events.

Is there a military and industrial conspiracy to prevent peace? In the first place, it is much easier to conspire with people who share your general understanding of the world, and if this type of affinity is strong enough sometimes only the slightest remark or gesture may communicate fully one’s intentions. People may “conspire” in this sense without necessarily even being aware of it — or certainly without being willing to admit that that is what they’re doing.

People do not always need to be consciously communicating with one another, nor does anyone necessarily have to outline a strategy for them, for them to act together. This is the premise of the study of collective behavior. The military and industrial elites do of course communicate among themselves a great deal; no doubt much of this communication is secret between members of this elite. Nevertheless, most of their communication comes through media which are available to all, as they inform one another of their interpretations of world crises, international and domestic economics, repression of dissent at home and abroad, and so forth, in such media as U.S. News and World Report, Barron’s, and the New York Times.

These elites do not then need to conspire behind closed doors; they can do it openly, except for especially daring violations of the public conscience about which they prefer to keep the non-elite people ignorant.

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